The Connection Between Dogs and Children
I saw a comic the other day about a dog who finally found the ability to speak to his humans. One of the first things he told them, was that when he sits by the table while they’re eating, whining just a little, it meant that he would like some of their food!
He was then very disappointed to find out that they knew this the entire time and neglected to give him their food anyways. It made me laugh but also sent my mind reeling. I couldn’t help but delve more into the minds of our furry companions; to see exactly what we know about how our dogs think, why they do it, and how much of what we say and do really gets through to them.
What I found? Well it gets a little fuzzy when you start getting into the jargon of scientists… but my favorite take away was this: for us layman human companions, we should think of our dogs as children – toddlers to be more exact.
Take a look at these three points to see if you can find a deeper understanding in your furry companion or perhaps a better understanding of how your relationship can improve by knowing these things.
There is nothing malicious about a two year old, just as there is nothing malicious about the behaviors of our dogs. There are many reasons they call them the “terrible twos” but having it out for you isn’t one of them.
They are innocent in their intentions. While they may be mischievous, destructive, uncontrollable little tyrants sometimes, they do these things out of sheer need to release energy, their natural disposition, and learned behaviors. Ultimately, they are playful, loving, and loyal. If a behavior isn’t suitable, time, effort, and consistency needs to be put into effect to teach new behaviors.
Understanding Cause and Effect
Our dogs do not live in the past or the future. They exist in the present. This is not to say that they do not learn from past experiences and take consequences into consideration when making decisions, but what choice they make is entirely up to them.
Yes, they ate the entire loaf of bread off your counter (bag and all) even though they “knew better.” But to them, the bread would provide more pleasure than the displeasure of the possible consequences.
Like our toddlers, they’re ruled by emotions and desires. Those emotions and desires can often only be overruled by a reward of greater value.
It is essential when training and disciplining your dogs that it is done with love, praise, and rewards that they find value in. It is also essential to take into consideration that training needs to be simple–simple enough for a two year old to understand… no matter how many dog-years of experience your pup has packed on.
Fair Play and Trust
When a large dog interacts with a smaller dog, you often see submissive movements such as bowing, rolling over, playing on the belly to bring their heads to the same level, and an overall gentleness not assumed when they play with dogs of equal stature. What drives them to control their impulses to play rougher, louder, and bigger than they should? The reward of play.
However, in order for this fair play to work, the smaller dog needs to trust that the larger dog will be gentle, and the larger dog needs to trust that the smaller dog won’t take advantage of him in his submissive state.
This is very like how our toddlers behave when playing with larger children, their parents, and even pets in the home. They operate on trust and if that trust is violated the child will act out or break down. They do not understand why, they only understand that the rules of the game were broken.
What does this all mean? Narrowed down and to the point? What it all means is that our dogs are simple, innocent creatures ruled, not only by impulsive desires and strong emotions, but also trust and a firm understanding of the rules… when they’re taught in a way they can understand and find value in.
What does it mean for you and me as the guardians of such beings? That anger will take us nowhere and that kindness, love, patience, and consistency will result in a happier dog, a happier you, and a more cohesive relationship built on loyalty, trust, and plenty of dog biscuits!